Old standbys and Chef Mark Militello’s creations stand out at Josie’s Ristorante in Boynton Beach

Josie’s dining room

Josie’s, outside

Choosing an entree can be difficult with parms, meatballs and pizza as well as fois gras, rabbit, mahi mahi and porchetta-marinated pork chop on Josie’s menu

Josie’s Ristorante in Boynton Beach is not your grandmother’s Italian restaurant.

This pleasant, simply designed eatery, deep in the now-under-reconstruction Riverwalk Plaza strip center off Federal Highway at Woolbright Road, shares a driveway with the more expensive Prime Catch. Open the door to Josie’s and the enticing aroma of garlic wafts from the kitchen. Pizza ovens (no slices) are to the right. In the dining area, to the left, are wooden tables with woven placemats, and a large bar with flat-screen TVs.

Chef Mark Militello (Josie’s Facebook photo)

For some 20 years Josie’s was just another pizza, spaghetti-and-meatballs type of restaurant. A few years back the owners, the Setticasi family, recruited consulting chef Mark Militello, a James Beard House Award winner, to help out. Militello was among the chefs who revolutionized dining South Florida a generation ago with his restaurants Mark’s Place in North Miami. Mark’s Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale and Mark’s at the Park in Boca Raton. He was gone, however, on our second visit, having left to assist restaurateur Burt Rappaport open Prezzo in Boca Raton. That second visit was less enjoyable.  Now, he’s back, happily for diners seeking more inspired dining.

To be sure, there are still pizzas and meatballs on the menu, along with other traditional Italian-American restaurant standbys — Parms, Marsalas and Franceses. But there also highly interesting daily and special menus that show Miltello’s fingerprint. The menu has offered foie gras an rabbit, along with more exciting dishes.


Seafood Bisque

Soups are a strong point. The minestrone at one meal was among the best I’d ever slurped. It was loaded with beans and veggies and al dente (surprise) digitali pasta, all in a flavorful, though a bit too salty, broth. A pea and carrot soup was beautiful to look at, but it, too, was a bit too salty. Seafood bisque on another visit was lush and flavorful and packed with bits of sea creatures.

Choosing an entrée can be difficult with so many interesting choices. (Entrees prices range from $19 to about $34.) On our first visit it hard to ignore a special of porchetta marinated pork chop with acorn squash and a mushroom risotto.  The chop, an inch-thick bone-in slab, was moist and fibrous and the spicy sausage coating atop the chop was a delight, though just a tad salty. Cubes of acorn squash were scattered around the chop and the risotto was perfectly al dente with an earthy mushroom character.

Chicken Francese

Chicken Parm

On a second visit, black grouper filet with greens, olives and fennel, was sliced unevenly with the result one end firm, the other mushy. The fennel was crisp, but pesto sauce overpowered the delicate fish. More recently, mahi mahi piccata over linguini married well with a flavorful lemon-caper sauce.

An order of four-cheese ravioli, modified at a $2 upcharge to a cream sauce, was pronounced very good and chicken francese was nicely done. Chicken parm, ordered by friends on a recent visit, was deemed excellent.

And my children’s grandmother, who choked on the menu prices, happily feasted on meatballs (actually, just one, fist size, made from short ribs) and spaghetti.

Mahi Mahi


Porchetta Pork Chop

The long wine list has many wines by the glass (though not enough Italian offerings), but the triple markups on many offerings are put-offish.

Service, however, at Josie’s price points initially needed some honing. The server on our first visit was training a new hire and wasn’t always around. As a result, it took a while for our entrees to arrive after our first course dishes had been removed.  Food runners arrived at the table and auctioned dishes. With only four guests at a table, it shouldn’t be difficult for them to know who ordered what. Our server at that time asked if we wanted dessert, but no dessert menu was offered. We passed, quite full already.  Service was more attentive on our subsequent visits. but there were times when water glasses needed refilling and a check was sought, but no one was around to ask for it.

Still, Josie’s under Militello, makes dining in Boynton Beach, more adventurous—and more delicious. And at weekday lunchtimes there are $8 specials.

And my grandma’s meatball? She couldn’t finish it, but she enjoyed it the next night at home.

Josie’s Ristorante

1602 S Federal Hwy., Boynton Beach, Florida 33435-6901

(561) 364-9601

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